Black Lips Give Boston a Big Sloppy Kiss of Rock & Roll

Filed in Arts & Entertainment, Featured by on March 26, 2010 0 Comments
Black Lips

The Black Lips, though apparently sedate here, are probably plotting something outrageous--note the moustaches (PR photo courtesy of Black-Lips.com)

The Black Lips rock so hard they make sweat rain from the ceiling.

At least that’s what happened last night at the Middle East in Cambridge, where the Atlanta  quartet raged in a full-blown assault of rock and roll madness. With the dance floor packed in the notoriously under-ventilated basement, it took only a few wild, thumping songs before the combined sweat of hundreds began to condense on the low ceiling, fat droplets suspended menacingly like salty prisms.

Disgusting as it may sound, that’s exactly the kind of environment in which you should expect the Black Lips to play. Their lyrics ooze an unapologetic depravity; their signature song, Bad Kids,  features doo wop vocals referencing bastard children and pill-popping, and includes glibly puerile lines like ” Smoke cigs in the bathroom stall/ Spraypaint a penis on the wall.”

The band is also known for their over the top sets and unpredictable stage antics. They claim to have once fled from India mid-tour, fearing an arrest on indecency charges after guitarist Cole Alexander leapt naked into the crowd.

And while last night’s show didn’t feature any nudity or repeated attempts to goad the bouncers, the energy wasn’t lacking in the least. For an hour, the band plowed pell-mell through pounding sludge-rock songs loaded with gruff distortion and quick chord changes. From the set’s opening notes  to the closing cover of the Chuck Berry classic, Too Much Monkey Business, the Lips played with an unflagging intensity and exuberance, albeit a very grimy one.

The Lips songs show strong influences from pioneers of sloppy rock like the Stooges, the kind of music where off notes go unnoticed beneath a guitarist’s unbridled enthusiasm.

Yet the Lips stage presence adds an unself-conscious edge to the music that is at once frenetic, juvenile, and incredibly refreshing  in a music scene often dominated by overt posturing. The Lips seem to revel in the act of careening around stage, not in the crowd’s response to it. The same passion could be expected even were they to play alone in a shed—a filthy, filthy shed.

Opening acts Box Elders and Movers and Shakers held their own as well. Hometown act Movers and Shakers primed the crowd with a blend of punk rock and just about everything else, from country to soul. Nebraska based Box Elders then fine tuned the mood, blazing through a set of goofy pop-punk bursting with hooks and upstrokes more closely resembling the Lips own tunes.

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